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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Editorial Comment: And when the newspapers die. . . .

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Graffiti problem growing in Hyde Park area

By Mark Vuong

February 16, 2009 | HYDE PARK -- Graffiti is a seasonal crime. Summer brings about three "tagging" (graffiti-related) crimes per week, says North Park Police Sgt. John Italasano. It tapers off during the winter season to about two per month.

The messages in paint on the water tank located behind the SVU hill last summer read "fuck police" and "hate Logan city," Italasano said.

"It's just kids out past midnight with nothing better to do than destroy property," Italasano said. "And that's all they're doing, is destroying property."

Gangs will also mark their territory with gang names or logos, he said.

Italasano said catching the perpetrator in the act is not easy. Usually, the crime is reported the next day, he said, and to catch the perpetrator, police compare the logo to photographs of previous tags to see which gang was involved.

Italasano said officers are able to keep tabs on gang members because they're always running into them. "They're always giving a reason" for officers to talk to them, he said.

"Sometimes we can get them to roll over on who did the actual tagging," he said. "Just threaten them with something, you know, 'tell us who did this or we're going to arrest you and add this charge and this charge.'

"I got a saying, my saying is I don't get mad, I just add another charge. It's just working people against people."

North Park Police detective Ulysses Black says gangs will mark their own city, and gangs from a different city will see it, spray an X over the current tag and spray their logo next to it. Once the gang sees that their logo has been tampered with, they go to the other gang's city and do the same thing, he said. It is by this repeated process, Black said, that graffiti gets out of hand.

There are a number of reasons why gangs do that, he says: to challenge the other gang, retaliate, show territory or let others know that they are there.

Black says city property gets tagged the most often, next is private property and then commercial property.

People join gangs for several reasons, Black says, to feel accepted, for protection, or because it runs in the family, also known as generational gangs. Cache county is seeing a "huge increase" in gang-related graffiti, he said.

Not all graffiti is gang related, though. Black said there are people known as taggers who go around spraying pictures on building walls or fences.

To tell the difference, Black said, "Taggers usually put pictures with bubbly words, while gangs have sloppy writing or gang names or monikers."

When Italasano joined the North Park Police 17 years ago, he says there were no gangs in Cache county. Nowadays, he estimates there are a dozen.

"As gangs grow in popularity among kids, tagging is going to grow," Italasano said.


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